Microplastics proliferating in the world’s oceans appear to also be carrying a host of bacteria, some so toxic that they can cause coral bleaching in tropical waters and even bring infections to humans with open wounds. Bacteria known to cause gastroenteritis were also found.
Researchers from the National University of Singapore sampled plastic debris in the waters around the city-state. They found that among the bacteria hitching rides on the microplastics were some useful organisms, such as those that can break down pollutants in the water.
But lead researcher Sandric Leong cautioned that since marine life are eating the plastic, the accompanying pathogens could be passing up the food chain.
Researchers say microplastics were in the guts of every marine animal they examined that had washed up on the coast of Britain, including dolphins, seals and whales.
A team from the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory says most of the particles found in 50 animals from 10 different species were synthetic fibers, which can come from fishing nets, toothbrushes and clothing. They believe the rest came from sources such as food packaging and plastic bottles.
While it’s thought the plastic would eventually pass through the digestive systems or be regurgitated, the scientists say they “don’t yet know what effects the microplastics, or the chemicals on and in them, might have on marine mammals.”
Asia’s longest river floods sea with plastic waste
The longest river in Asia has become one of the world’s most polluted, with tonnes of plastic waste threatening marine life in the East China Sea and beyond.
The Yangtze River is the third longest river in the world, with a length of more than 6,300km. According to research published in a recent environmental journal, the Yangtze and its tributaries carry 1.5 million tonnes of plastic into the sea each year – the most of any river in the world.
In an effort to save marine life, environmental groups and campaigners in the country are organising volunteer clean-up operations, clearing out plastic along the mouth of the polluted river.
China is one of the biggest plastic consumers in the world. In 2016, package delivery services used an estimated 14 billion plastic bags. And with the rapid increase of food delivery options, it is estimated that 60m plastic containers are used each day – many of which cannot be recycled.